Sunday, February 10, 2013

Precious Time: The Sunflower Clock, 1752

The Sunflower Clock, 1752-1820
Vincennes and others
The Royal Collection
Crown Copyright
Image Courtesy of
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
This curious clock is said to have once belonged to Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of French King Louis XV though that can’t truly be verified. It is, however, decidedly French in origin.

A porcelain vase which is painted with romantic scenes and adorned with sculpted insects has been filled with a bouquet of china flowers (held aloft on green wire stems). The central flower is a disguised clock-face with the hands cleverly mounted in the middle of a great sunflower. The clock’s case was created by the porcelain-makers, Vincennes.

British King George IV acquired this peculiar timepiece in France in 1819 while he was still Prince Regent. Upon bringing the clock to England, he had it altered rather dramatically. Twin handles of gilt serpents were added, a base with flanking branch candelabra was attached to the urn and a variety of new porcelain flowers were incorporated into the display. Not only that, but much of the original work by Vincennes was covered-over with jewels. No one’s quite sure why these changes were made, except for the fact that styles change with time.

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